Tech Investments Help LegalShield Boost Memberships

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LegalShield is moving into 2017 with memberships at an all-time high, thanks in part to a significant investment in new technologies.

Over the course of 2016, more than 500,000 enrolled in the company’s legal plans, which offer unlimited legal advice and what is touted as the industry’s only 24/7 hotline, for members needing emergency assistance. The Oklahoma-based company also offers a subscription-based service for small businesses. As it enters the new year, LegalShield is serving more than 1.6 million member accounts.

The company’s sizable growth over the past year dovetailed with the launch of several new digital products and services, foremost among them the new-and-improved LegalShield App. The tool enables users to contact a law firm, prepare a will or process a parking ticket with all the ease of placing a mobile order at Starbucks. In the words of LegalShield’s CEO, Jeff Bell, “The LegalShield App is a game changer, because it puts your law firm in the palm of your hand.”

Two additional apps introduced in 2016 are helping the company reach new audiences. The Shake by LegalShield app allows users to create—at no cost—legal forms tailored to their specific U.S. state or Canadian province. The in-house team behind Shake also created Ask by LegalShield, which provides answers to more than 1,500 common legal questions.

The company’s focus on digital initiatives was reinforced by the November promotion of David Coffey to Senior Vice President, Chief Digital Officer. Coffey, formerly LegalShield’s Chief Media Director, has been tasked with leading a continued expansion of online marketing.

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Q&A: CEO Jeff Bell on LegalShield’s Latest Offerings

In the first quarter of 2016, LegalShield recorded its strongest quarterly performance since Jeff Bell stepped into the role of CEO two years ago.

That was one of many achievements celebrated at LegalShield’s annual convention this week in Oklahoma City, where it hosted 10,000 independent Associates from across North America. During the event, the legal services provider also recognized 13 new lifetime million-dollar income earners, introduced a new ring recognition program and awarded nearly $1.5 million in bonuses. DSN recently spoke to Bell, a sales and marketing veteran whose career has included stints at Microsoft and Chrysler, about LegalShield’s recent growth and the slate of new tools and services coming in 2016.

DSN: LegalShield is rolling out several new technology-based products and plans this year. Entering 2017, will this look like a different kind of company?

JB: I think the answer is yes, and I want to take a step back because in one way we’re unique in the direct selling and network marketing arena. I learned just this year that for the longest time the model was summarized by the slogan, “Wear the button, share the sample, show the plan.” I think one of the reasons we struggled to fit in is because we didn’t have a sample. … If you think about, for instance, skincare or food supplements like nutrition bars or powders, those things can be handed out. … What we’ve created is almost an ethereal concept. We tell people, “Hey, don’t pay a lawyer by the hour. Join our community, and with a monthly membership you can talk to a lawyer on any issue, and the meter’s not running. You’re not paying by the hour.” People find it interesting, but still kind of theoretical.

Now, we have the LegalShield App. Our Associates can pull out their phone, tap the app, and there it is—a press of the button will call your law firm. It knows who you are. This last week we added the Snap by LegalShield feature, which handles parking tickets by automatically sending a photo on to the law firm for processing. So now we suddenly have our sample. That’s a huge breakthrough. … That’s probably been the biggest change for us, but in many ways it’s back to the future—we’re becoming more like the direct selling and network marketing industry.

DSN: This evolution dates back at least to LegalShield’s acquisition of tech startup Shake Inc. in April 2015. What was the strategy there, and how has it enhanced the business thus far?

JB: Our first LegalShield App came out in fall 2014, and it was very simple. It made a phone call. It knew who you were as a member and it knew your law firm. Start simple, start small. With the acquisition of Shake Law, we added a really powerful functionality, which is the ability to create forms on your mobile phone or on the web, for free. We have added one significant benefit to what they originally envisioned, in that all the forms are prepared by the law firms in each of our U.S. states or Canadian provinces. Shake by LegalShield first asks you what state or province you’re in, and then the forms presented are specific to those jurisdictions. Additionally, we understand a do-it-yourself approach is taken by many because they think they can’t afford to pay a lawyer by the hour. We let them know the benefit of consulting a lawyer in preparing that form and some of the downside risks of going it alone, and then introduce the concept that they can join our community for as little as $17.95. …

The other thing the Shake team—located in Manhattan’s Little Italy—has done for us is launch an all-new app called Ask by LegalShield, which provides answers to more than 1,500 common legal questions. That app has already generated a lot of memberships for us. … Both Shake and Ask are prospecting tools for our Associates. Whenever they send an invitation to download those apps, they are deep linked. If someone decides to become a member after trying the app, that commission is attributed back to the referring Associate. We feel really good about the potential for these tools to raise awareness and close membership sales. We’ve had more than 200,000 downloads of the app, which in the app business is an awful lot.

Read more from our conversation with Bell in the August issue of DSN.

LegalShield Adds Two to Board of Directors

LegalShield on Tuesday announced two new board appointments, including company CEO Jeff Bell and Pete Jarvis, Vice President of technology solutions firm TidalScale.

The new additions to the board will replace outgoing directors Gil Anderson, CEO of Allant, and Frank Sowinski of LegalShield investor MidOcean Partners.

Prior to joining the legal services provider in 2014, Bell was a partner at venture capital firm NCT Ventures. He also has extensive experience in marketing and corporate leadership, having served—and earned numerous accolades—as Vice President of Global Marketing at Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business (maker of Xbox) and Vice President of…

Click here to see the full article at Direct Selling News.

 

John Addison Joins LegalShield Board of Directors

After stepping down as Co-CEO of Primerica earlier this year, industry veteran John Addison is joining LegalShield’s board of directors, the legal services provider announced Monday.

Addison, who also sits on Primerica’s board, is the non-executive Chairman of Primerica Distribution. He transitioned to the role in April, after 33 years with the financial services distributor. Formerly a part of Citigroup, Primerica conducted a successful IPO in 2010 under the leadership of Addison and Co-CEO Rick Williams.

“John Addison is not only an industry pioneer who understands our business; he also sits at the vanguard of people development and motivation,” LegalShield CEO Jeff Bell said in a statement. “We are combining best-in-class leadership with an industry-leading suite of products, creating a business that truly helps people.”

After more than 40 years in the business, Oklahoma-based LegalShield has built a membership of 1.4 million covering 3.7 million lives. Independent Associates market the company’s 24/7 legal counsel and identity theft protection to businesses as well as individuals. Currently, upwards of 34,000 companies offer the LegalShield plan to employees as a voluntary benefit.

Addison’s relationship with LegalShield began in 1997, when he met the company’s late founder, Harland Stonecipher. “Harland always said LegalShield exists to serve a mission greater than itself—equal access to equal justice—something that matters now more than ever. I am very proud to be a part of this company,” said Addison.

In the past year, LegalShield has taken steps to enhance its digital presence, including an overhaul of the company’s websites and the launch of three new mobile apps, providing legal advice to the general public and more extensive services for members. In April, LegalShield acquired the assets of Shake LLC, owner of the Shake app, which enables users to create and manage legal contracts from their smartphones. Business Insider named Shake one of the Top 11 App Developers to Watch in 2014.

Equal Access, Equal Adaptability: LegalShield’s Moral Imperative to Grow

by Beth Douglass Silcox

Click here to order the March 2015 issue in which this article appeared or click here to download it to your mobile device.


Company Profile

Founded: 1972
Headquarters: Ada, Oklahoma with Executive Offices in Dallas, Texas
Executives: Jeff Bell, CEO; Kathy Pinson, COO; Steve Williamson, CFO; Alan Fearnley, President of Consumer Marketing and Brand and Chief Commercial Officer; James Rosseau, President of LegalShield Business Solutions; and Darnell Self, Executive Vice President of Network and Business Development.
Product Categories: Legal and Identity Theft Services for individuals, families, and businesses



CEO Jeff Bell’s goal, as he sees it, is to make LegalShield a household name, much like direct selling giants Mary Kay, Avon and Tupperware did for their product categories. Admittedly, skincare, cosmetics and food storage are more easily understood concepts than the disruptive business model that powers LegalShield’s mission of equal access to equal justice for all, but Bell and his team aim to change that. In fact, he says, “I believe our growth is not just a business imperative, it’s also a moral imperative.”When LegalShield brought on a new CEO with consumer marketing and corporate leadership credentials the likes of Microsoft, Chrysler, Ford and NBCUniversal last summer, they once again affirmed the company’s adaptable nature. This pioneering, service-focused direct selling company has a long history in meeting the changing needs of the consumer marketplace with innovations like 24/7 legal counsel and identity theft protection, as well as rising to broader corporate and industry challenges.

Today, the 43-year-old company offers individual and family pre-paid legal and identity theft plans, as well as products for home businesses, small businesses up to 100 employees, and larger companies that elect to provide a LegalShield option within employee benefits packages. LegalShield’s memberships number 1.4 million covering 3.7 million lives, and its call center fielded 2 million member calls for legal assistance in 2014.

One Car Accident Away

LegalShield, originally incorporated as Pre-Paid Legal, arose from the rolling hills of Ada, Oklahoma, following Founder Harland Stonecipher’s head-on automobile collision in 1969. Despite insurance coverage for life, auto, and health, life insurance agent Stonecipher realized his family’s vulnerability to unexpected legal fees after being sued for an accident that was not his fault.

As he recovered, Stonecipher mulled over the fate of his family and the hundreds of thousands of other families who could fall into this gap at a moment’s notice. Surely something existed to provide assurance to everyday people needing legal counsel, but research proved otherwise.

So in 1972, he forged ahead on his own from a one-room office in a local mini-mall. Within seven years, the company offered connectivity to legal services in six states, and by 1982 had become the conduit between a membership network of people who needed access to legal help and an attorney provider base that could deliver it. COO Kathy Pinson, who has spent 35 years with the company, says, “The provider attorney system is our key competitive advantage today.”


“I believe our growth is not just a business imperative, it’s also a moral imperative.”

—Jeff Bell, CEO


Competitive Advantage

LegalShield’s provider attorney system hinges on extensive vetting and long-term contracting with a single, large and established law firm within each U.S. state and Canadian province in which they do business. Average length of service for a LegalShield firm is 14 years with attorney experience levels averaging 20 years.

Because that firm represents all LegalShield members in that state or province, LegalShield’s business can comprise a big part of the firm’s overall business. According to Alan Fearnley, President of Consumer Marketing and Brand, this creates a scenario whereby attorneys become “almost evangelical” in their support of the business model, which in turn generates fantastic customer support for members, assures LegalShield members receive legal guidance from experienced professionals, and establishes vital connectivity between law firms and the field, which makes LegalShield’s various services easier to sell.


“The provider attorney system is our key competitive advantage today.”

—Kathy Pinson, Chief Operating Officer


“The very way that we’re set up allows us to have additional quality measures over those attorneys that no one else has,” Pinson says.

LegalShield quantifies member experiences with attorney providers, effectively putting a number to their “bedside manner” and holds lawyers accountable for the service they render. LegalShield has experienced a considerable rise in their Net Promoter Score® (NPS), a customer loyalty scale used to measure overall satisfaction with a brand or product. The scale ranges from -100 (everyone is a detractor of the company or product) to +100 (everyone is a supporter of the brand or product). Attained by survey, any score above zero is somewhat positive; a score of 50+ is excellent. Fearnley happily reports that Legalshield’s score, which ranged in the mid-40s a few years ago, now stand at 57. He says, “By allowing attorneys to see that score and by training around it, our service levels are really terrific and that’s helped the quality of the business.”

From the view of LegalShield’s associate field, where Darnell Self, Executive Vice President of Network and Business Development, spent 15 years, the attorney provider network is something competitors just don’t have. Decades in the making, the time and resources necessary to put the right law firms and communications in place, Self says, makes it unlikely to be duplicated. That’s a highly sought after attribute for those seeking direct selling opportunities.

LegalSheild

A Mission for All

“We deliver products that promote peace of mind,” Bell says. “We believe that our mission applies both to our members and our sales associates. We want to improve their lives by teaching them life-transforming skills, giving them peace of mind and confidence in a world oftentimes uncaring and selfish.”

In fact, Harland and Shirley Stonecipher’s founding mission centered on … Read the full story at Direct Selling News.

In Memoriam: A Tribute to Harland Stonecipher

by Barbara Seale

The direct selling industry lost an icon on Nov. 10 with the death of Harland Stonecipher, who founded one of the industry’s most unique companies, LegalShield. Stonecipher was 76 years old.

The concept for Stonecipher’s business brainchild was inspired by difficult circumstances. In 1969 he was involved in a head-on auto collision. Though the accident was not his fault, he was sued. The experience cost him thousands of dollars in legal fees and shook his idealistic beliefs about justice. But it caused the teacher-turned-life-insurance-salesman to begin thinking about how others could be protected from the nightmare he endured.

By 1972 he had created LegalShield’s predecessor company, which incorporated as Pre-Paid Legal Services Inc. in 1976. Six years later Stonecipher’s old friend John Hail introduced him to the concept of marketing his legal services memberships through network marketing. Stonecipher served as CEO from the company’s inception until 2010, when he relinquished that title, but he continued to be active as Chairman of the Board and Founder. In 2011 MidOcean Partners, a private equity firm, acquired Pre-Paid Legal for $650 million and renamed the company LegalShield.

Today the company provides legal services to some 1.4 million families covering 3.7 million people across North America, and more than 34,000 companies offer the LegalShield plan to their employees as a voluntary benefit. The company has dedicated law firms in 49 states and four provinces in Canada.

LegalShield CEO Jeff Bell, who joined the company in mid-2014, reached out to Stonecipher soon after joining the company. He found that Stonecipher was kind, professional, and generous with his time and advice.

“One of my principles is that you need to find the truth within every business, and that truth resides in its people. I couldn’t imagine speaking to anyone who knew more about this business than Harland Stonecipher and his wife, Shirley,” Bell says. “I wanted to show my respect because he was the company’s founder, but meeting them was a surprise and delight. I only got to spend four months with him, but I treasured the time. He spoke to me like a father would. I valued his counsel about our team in Ada [Oklahoma] as well as our field leadership. He talked about the challenges, what to avoid, and how to motivate a volunteer army. He still spoke with such conviction and passion about free enterprise and access to the justice system. It will stay with me forever.”

Stonecipher’s passion for his business and his conviction that it could change lives may have been at least part of the reason he was so highly regarded. Few people called him by his first name. To most, he was Mr. Stonecipher—it was a term of respect.

John Long, LegalShield’s Vice President of Marketing Operations and spokesperson for the Stonecipher family, knew the company founder for decades. He first encountered Stonecipher in 1987 at their shared alma mater, East Central University in Oklahoma. Long was in the ’87 graduating class, and Stonecipher was being named the University’s Distinguished Alumnus and commencement speaker. Long then worked at Pre-Paid Legal for a short time, left to return to school, and then rejoined Pre-Paid Legal in 1999, working directly for Stonecipher.


“Very few people called him Harland. He was Mr. Stonecipher. I never heard him instruct anyone to call him mister. He just drew that respect everywhere, even from his peer CEOs at other companies.”
—John Long, Vice President of Marketing Operations, LegalShield


“I had a glossy title, but the more heartfelt title would have been Harland’s Assistant,” Long recalls. “I did the things he didn’t have time to do so that he could be in front of the salesforce, traveling and motivating and speaking to them all over North America.” Long confesses, though, that he still feels a little uncomfortable using the first name. “Very few people called him Harland. He was Mr. Stonecipher. I never heard him instruct anyone to call him mister. He just drew that respect everywhere, even from his peer CEOs at other companies.”

He adds, “One of the first things Jeff did was ask to meet with Mr. Stonecipher and Shirley. That resonated with people around the country. I knew it would help Jeff, but I also knew it would help Harland and Shirley. In the last few weeks of his life he had gone back to referencing this company and himself as ‘we’—not that he was ever excluded. I know how important it was to him.”

Stonecipher was passionate about his business for 40 years, and in 2002 he was recognized by Ernst & Young as their Southwest Master Entrepreneur of the Year. He also became a sought-after speaker and addressed a variety of businesses and organizations, including several attorney general associations. He was just as passionate about his community. He and his wife used their wealth and influence to improve the community in numerous ways. His alma mater, ECU, recognized him as Distinguished Alumnus in 1987. He and Shirley later bestowed a gift to the university, which led to the naming of the Harland C. Stonecipher School of Business. An avid hunter and outdoorsman, Stonecipher was appointed to three consecutive terms as a Commissioner of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Two other projects were especially dear to him. Both show his inclination to find ways to help others after tragedy strikes, as he did when he founded Pre-Paid Legal. The first was in 1999 when … Click here to read the full story at Direct Selling News.

New LegalShield CEO Talks ‘Equal Access to Equal Justice’

Equal access to equal justice—it’s nearly unimaginable in many countries, and it’s what attracted new chief executive Jeff Bell to LegalShield. Bell joined the legal services provider this month following the three-year tenure of Rip Mason, who now serves as Executive Chairman of the Board.

At first, Bell told DSN in an interview, he deemed the company’s $20-a-month prepaid legal plan too good to be true. Across North America, LegalShield employs over a thousand lawyers dedicated solely to serving its members. The Ada, Oklahoma-based company also retains 6,000 referred attorneys who can take on member cases. Unlike many of its competitors, who vie for spots on various rosters of providers, LegalShield takes its plans directly to consumers through a network of Sales Associates.

Jeff Bell

In a July LegalShield survey of more than 500 Americans, 30 percent of adults reported facing an issue where legal services should have been enlisted but were not. Nearly half (44 percent) stated that hiring a lawyer is intimidating. People need access to simple, affordable legal services, notes Bell, but they also need someone to walk them through the details. That’s where the company’s Sales Associates come in.

“LegalShield is a beautifully disruptive model in an age where products and services, as well as opportunities like direct sales, are changing the way Americans do business and interact in the marketplace,” says Bell.

Though new to direct selling, Bell has honed his marketing and leadership skills at brands like Ford, Microsoft, Chrysler and NBCUniversal. As Vice President of DaimlerChrysler’s Jeep and Chrysler Divisions, Bell launched the Chrysler 300 and marketing initiatives that included the Dodge “Grab Life by the Horns” campaign. During Bell’s tenure at DaimlerChrysler, Advertising Age named him “Interactive Marketer of the Year” in 2005. In the role of Corporate Vice President, Global Marketing, for Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business (Xbox), Bell received the Advertising Age “Entertainment Marketer of the Year” title in 2007.

His decision to join LegalShield, Bell says, hinged on the integrity of the product itself—universal access to quality law firms without the high hourly costs. The company has a salesforce over 100,000-strong, ranging from full-time Associates to those seeking a supplemental income, and serves well over 1.5 million members. “My question,” Bell submits, “is why don’t we have 15 million?”

For someone who led Xbox to its first profitable year ever and managed a growth spurt that took Xbox LIVE from 4 million to 12 million members in just two years, it’s not a flippant question. Bell is also quick to point out that he is building upon a solid foundation at LegalShield.

“I have nothing but the most profound respect for the sales organization that has been developed, and the founders and co-founders of this incredible business,” he shares.

Making quality legal services accessible to all is, as Bell describes it, a rare opportunity to do well while also doing good. “We have a chance to create a better future and better opportunities for the next generation, and that’s what motivates us.”